Boston Trolley Tour and River Cruise

Boston river boat rides

Riverboat named Henry Longfellow

Boston, the largest city in New England and one of the oldest in the USA, was founded by Puritan settlers from England. The city had a key role in the American Revolution, which of course means it now has historical revolutionary tourist attractions. The area of Boston called Back Bay is built on landfill in former tidal flats.

old buildings

Boston has a lot of old buildings

In spite of its expensive hotel rates about 12 million tourists visit Boston each year. They come to view historic places and to walk Boston’s Freedom Trail. Sports fans come to see Fenway Park, the oldest baseball stadium still in use. Other visitors enjoy museums, concerts, shopping, parks, and other amenities. Some also come to board or disembark a cruise ship.

modern sculpture

Not everything in Boston is old

I came to Boston with two aunts, an uncle, and a couple days to see the town before boarding Holland America‘s Veendam for a Boston to Quebec cruise, my first visit to eastern Canada and the northeast corner of the USA.

Boston old school

Old historic school house

Because hotels in downtown Boston or near the waterfront are so expensive we stayed at a Ramada just outside the downtown area. The hotel had a free shuttle to the airport, cruise dock, and a train station where we could catch the subway into town. The hotel building was a bit on the older side, but the price was good for the area and the staff was nice. The free breakfast included several hot selections beyond toast. They had scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and make-your-own waffles.

public garden

Boston Public Garden

We took an overnight flight into Boston. As soon as our tickets popped out of the e-ticket kiosk I noticed two things. First they all said TSA pre-check. Mine and both my aunts. Often when traveling with my husband he gets the pre-check and goes through the quick line while I join the que where you have to wait in a long line to take off your shoes and coat, take your computer out of the bag, and walk through the scanner. As we got into the short pre-check line an airport worker looked our way suspiciously and said to the line in general while pointing toward the long general boarding line, “Make sure your tickets say pre-check on them or you will have to go over to the other line.” Ours did indeed say pre-check so we didn’t move. Neither did anyone else.

clock tower

Boston Clock Tower

A lot of people in the pre-check line looked like first-timers, unnecessarily unloading their packs and removing their coats in spite of that line’s lack of bins to put them in. I told the guy ahead of me to set his stuff on the conveyer and go through. He looked skeptical, but did it and at the end said thanks.

Boston duck boat

amphibious duck boat rides are a popular tourist attraction

The other shocker on my ticket came in the form of a MR.. Yup that’s what it said. After my name MR.. with two periods. It initially had MR as the default choice when I bought the ticket, but I changed it to MRS and now here I was at the airport with a ticket that said MR.. Since there was nothing I could do about it I figured don’t say anything and hope they don’t notice. Nobody said a word about it so either they didn’t notice or (as I pointed out to my aunts) in today’s politically correct world they may not be allowed to say anything because for all they know I could be transgender. Either way I got through security and on the plane so I was happy.

Boston trolley tour


Our plane landed long before check-in time at our hotel. We met up with my uncle at the Boston airport. His California flight arrived about an hour before ours from Seattle. He called the hotel for the shuttle, which far exceeded the time estimate they had given us for it to get there. I started out thinking to give the driver a low tip for his lateness, but on the way to the hotel we saw the slow traffic and he gave us a nice tour of the area.  He even took a detour past the cruise ship dock so we’d know where it was. By the time we got to the hotel the amount I decided to give him had more than doubled.

bar from Cheers TV show

Cheers Bar from inside the trolley

When we got to the hotel we dropped off our bags, which they locked away securely and then kindly said the breakfast room was open and we could eat even though we had not officially checked in. They were booked full the previous night and had no rooms open so we couldn’t check in then.  After filling our bellies we caught the shuttle to the train station and went into town, getting off at Park Street station by the Boston Commons. We found a hop-op hop-off trolley tour, and though we only hopped off where they had a river cruise included with the fare we still got the driving tour through town with constant commentary from the driver about the things we saw along the way.

Boston riverboat tour

inside the river boat

After disembarking the trolley at the boat ride stop, a walk through a mall brought us to the river. The trains we rode into town reminded me of Sydney, Australia and the mall even more so as it was on multiple levels. While malls where I live sprawl out over a large area at ground level except a few of the larger stores that have two stories, apparently malls built in more crowded places extended upward and downward with escalators in the middle of the aisles and many different stores on each level.

science museum

Boston Science Museum

After about a half hour wait for the boat to come in from its previous tour we boarded. The stern looked like the best spot as it had windows all the way around so everyone could sit by one, while the middle had rows of chairs where only the end person got a window. Since we got there first we got in line first and got the back, though we didn’t take all of it so a couple other people sat there too.

expensive digs for sailboats

fancy multimillion dollar boat shed from a university

The tour guide on the boat talked about the things we passed through most of the trip, and said that people could walk about and take photos. (It was less than half full so we had lots of room to move about.) Some people went to the open bow on the front.

it does the job

very basic boat shed at a school across the water

The river ran between Boston and Cambridge. Both sides had universities. In one place on one side of the river the university there had a multi-million dollar boat club for their rowing and sailing programs where the copper roof alone cost several million dollars and the school on the other side had a shack and a honeybucket. Perhaps one of those schools might just be a bit more affordable than the other.

railroad bridge

graffiti artists are everywhere

We passed under a number of bridges, each with their own story. Much of the riversides had older buildings with the fancy architecture not found in modern skyscrapers, though some of those sat near the river as well. The river cruise concluded at about hotel check-in time and was just 3 trolley stops from where we got on so it didn’t take long to get back to the train station, which is accessed by a stairway or elevator as it runs underground through town.

inside the river boat

the river boat was long and narrow

The Boston area has a lot of colleges so about a third of the population is under 30. We were impressed with how nice and friendly random people were. When we bought our trolley tickets the sign had a lower price for seniors. It did not give an age so when I asked how old you had to be to get the senior price he gave it to all of us without asking any of our ages even though I didn’t really qualify. (My husband laughed at that because I got a senior discount before him and he’s older.)

When we got on the train to go into town immediately several college-age kids jumped up from their seats to make room for us to sit down and more of them did so at any stop where people older than themselves got on the train.

We had walked up the stairs when we got off the train and when we went to find where to board after our tour we found an elevator marked only for the green line train and we needed red. It said all trains at the top, but only had a button for green line as a level to pick.  As soon as one of us mentioned that a nearby vendor said just go to the greenline level on the elevator and we could take stairs to the redline from there.

subway station

Park Street train station under Boston Commons

At most stops you could see the name of the station painted on the wall. Then we got to one dark stop where couldn’t see the station’s name. I mentioned that our station would be the 5th stop if it stopped at all the stations on the way and didn’t bypass any like the Sydney trains often do. A young girl sitting next to me asked what station we needed, and when I said JFK she said “That’s the first one after the train leaves the tunnel.” So while it was indeed the 5th stop since the train stopped at all the stations, knowing that it was the first daylight stop made it very easy to know when to get off the train.

While it’s been years since I paid attention to what’s in style, wouldn’t know fashion if it bit me, and am usually totally unobservant of what people wear, I couldn’t help but notice a large number of people dressed in the leggings and skinny jeans once fashionable in the 1980’s that I haven’t seen since. Apparently these things made a comeback. I haven’t seen anyone dressed that way where I live, but then again if there weren’t a lot of them I wouldn’t notice. A lot of the college crowd also wore sweatpants. Whether that is in fashion now too or they just want to dress comfortably I couldn’t say. The people all seemed quite pleasant and helpful, which is definitely more important than what they wear.

 Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015

About LBcruiseshipblogger

MyCruiseStories blog tells stories about adventures in cruising on ships big and small. Things to do onboard and in port. Anything connected to cruising. Also food, travel, recipes, towel animals, and the occasional random blog.
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9 Responses to Boston Trolley Tour and River Cruise

  1. aFrankAngle says:

    Despite it’s expensive lodging, I love Boston. The North End is one of my favorite places. Glad you got to cruise the river. … and hope you enjoyed Quebec City and the stops along the way.

  2. gwynnrogers says:

    You have some interesting pictures and stories about Boston. I was there on business many years ago, so unfortunately I didn’t have the time to tour around. I did get to see the college there, but that was it… along with the waterfront as the conference was in that area. I was sad to miss the history.

    • It would be a shame to go to Boston and not see anything of the city. I’m sure I barely scratched the surface of what Boston has to offer, but at least I saw some things. You did see something I didn’t though. I just saw colleges from the water on the riverboat, we never had any reason to actually go into any of them.

  3. Art Downing says:

    Your pictures are really great. Boston is one of the cities that every American should visit at least once in their lifetime. I hope you also have a blog sometime about the Freedom Trail.

  4. chris says:

    I spent six weeks working in Boston but didn’t get to see a lot other then a lot of different Home Depot stores. I did go to Faneuil market and the Aquarium though. I had some of the best chowder I have ever eaten at Faneuil market and bought a really nice septarian geode. The geode is from Utah but I found it at a rock and gem store not far from where we got the chowder.

  5. Pingback: Walking Boston’s Freedom Trail | Cruise Stories

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